GDPR Facilitates Better Advertiser-Publisher Relationships

It’s been only a few months since GDPR went into effect, and advertisers and publishers are still adjusting to their new reality.

As the dust settles around the compliance layer within ad tech, questions linger regarding how long-term consumer behavior will adapt to new consent requests. One truth has emerged: Advertisers’ relationships with publishers are more important today than they’ve ever been.

One consequence of the post-GDPR reality: Brands that have historically relied on third-party data have felt the pinch of GDPR more than others. First-party data has always been an important asset for brands. This importance has been underscored — and advertisers that lack first-party data are feeling the pinch — now that Facebook has decided to pull back its Partners Categories offering and other third-party data providers continue to wrestle with the limitations of GDPR compliance.

The newly restricted landscape for third-party data has illuminated the renewed value of publisher data for advertisers, based on the following two macro trends in our post-GDPR world: the reemergence of contextual targeting and the rise of second-party engagement data from publishers. 

The Reemergence of Contextual Relevance

Under GDPR, the collection and compliant use of audience data have become increasingly challenging. Even when third-party data providers do bring their offerings into compliance with GDPR, marketers must acknowledge there’s a growing portion of consumers declining to allow their data to be captured and used. 

Fortunately, that’s not the end game for marketers that want to reach these elusive consumers in a meaningful way. It simply means advertisers need to renew their emphasis on contextual advertising, a tried-and-true strategy overlooked by many brand marketers when third-party audience data rose to prominence. 

Whereas "context" once meant little more than placing ads on a publication whose readers’ demographics aligned with the advertiser’s target audience (e.g., a sports advertiser buying from, we now have placement-level contextual targeting enabled by machine learning and AI.

It’s a whole new ball game when it comes to contextual capabilities these days, and that’s good news for marketers. 

Targeting ads, especially native placements based on contextual relevance, represents a proven means of delivering brand messaging at a time when readers are most likely to be interested in a given product or service. This important truth was at the heart of Oracle’s recent acquisition of contextual intelligence platform Grapeshot.

But when it comes to understanding content and context, no one is better plugged into the right data than the publishers,

Publisher data can enable the deep contextual targeting that today’s advertisers need to prioritize in their media strategies. By forging relationships with publishers via sponsored content and native advertising, advertisers can tap directly into publisher data that will drive the most relevant contextual placements.

That ensures readers are seeing a brand’s messaging in an environment most likely to align the reader’s interests with the advertiser’s products and services.

The Rise of Second-Party Engagement Data 

Under GDPR, publishers are on the front line when it comes to obtaining consent to capture and leverage data around a consumer’s reading habits. They are the recognizable brands consumers already have a direct relationship with, and thus, are more likely to agree to consent to provide their data.

This second-party data created when users engage with an advertiser’s sponsored content on the publisher’s site, while not as scalable as third-party data, is actually more valuable. It provides a much stronger signal of intent.

Advertisers need to collaborate with publishers to capture engagement activity on their native article placements in a GDPR-compliant way. In doing so, brands can expand their pool of interested consumers for later messaging. Remember: These are individuals who, in reading a piece of sponsored content, have raised their hands to indicate interest in a brand.

By leveraging the publisher’s second-party data on these users (again, in a GDPR-compliant manner), marketers can seek to establish direct relationships with these individuals via subsequent outreach. 

First-party data remains vital for brands today, but establishing new direct relationships with consumers is more challenging than ever. By partnering with publishers to leverage their contextual data, as well as their engagement data around a brand’s native article placements, advertisers can expand their prospect pools with new contacts who already signaled interest in their brands.

In a post-GDPR world, relationships are everything — and today’s publishers make the best introductions.

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